About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Sunday, 31 December 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 13: 2006-07
If the previous campaign was the worst of Magpie times then this one was the best of Magpie times, indeed you could distil this series down to a Tale of Two Seasons.
Despite relegation, the new Pharmalink regime decided to keep faith with manager Carl Taylor, which was repaid when he recruited well, signing proven talent in Dominic Sterling and Dwain Clarke as well as promising youngsters Ashley Smith, Danny Burnell, Richard Witt and Mark Nisbet.
United were returning to the Southern League for the first time since the nineteenth century. It had evolved into a division broadly spanning the strip of England from the wash to the Bristol Channel and thus offered a season’s worth of trips to hitherto unknown clubs.
This middle England journey began with a trip to Gloucester City in a match which summed up Taylor’s spell in charge, Beginning impressively the Magpies looked good value for their lead from a Clarke strike only to lose to two late City goals. Five draws followed before the first win came at Halesowen. A replay was required to beat Hellenic League Carterton in the FA Cup and then disaster struck when lowly Clevedon came to York Road and left 5-0 winners.
The inability to consistently realise the considerable potential of his team finally saw Taylor pay the price, as Chairman Una Loughrey elected to dispense with his services following the big defeat. With no ready made placement, Richie Goddard (pictured right) again took the caretaker role, making a great impact by winning all four of his games in charge. Most memorably this included a win at Stamford on Apple Day, his team talk advising that if the team make their opponents turnover they would crumble in the box. Most importantly he also made progress in the FA Cup, John Dreyer returning to assist him lead the team to a tight win at East Thurrock.
A strong field of experienced candidates emerged for the manager’s post including the likes of Craig Edwards, Gordon Bartlett and Alan Devonshire. Eventually the board plumped for Johnson “Drax” Hippolyte who had had great success in his first post at Yeading.
He arrived in time to beat Dover in the Trophy, before a fourth and final FA Cup qualifying tie at York Road against Southern League Premier Division rivals Merthyr Tydfil. The Welshmen were unbeaten in the league and brought a raucous following to Berkshire. In an electric atmosphere, Maidenhead edged home thanks to a Lee Newman goal (pictured celebrating right), despite finishing with ten men.
This meant Maidenhead were in the FA Cup First Round for the first time for a generation. The post match draw may have only produced a trip to Conference Stafford Rangers but the all new experience of being in the public eye saw 176 fans make the trip north.
The home side took an early lead, and a Craig O’Connor red card left little to hope for as the second half kicked off but a headed equaliser from new signing Dwane Lee (pictured top), got United back into the game. All seemed lost though when captain Sterling joined O’Connor in the dressing room for a professional foul only for Chico Ramos to save the resulting penalty and earn a player of the round nomination. The Magpies managed to hold on for a replay, with the ten day run up to the second match allowing Cup fever to take hold in the town.
On an unforgettable night two thousand fans flocked to York Road as Stafford again took an early lead but an O’Connor missed penalty meant this time there was no way back for United, so it was Stafford who travelled to Brighton in the second round. Nevertheless the tie had revealed the club’s potential if the latent local support base could be mobilised. Reality hit a few weeks later when only 52 turned up York Road to watch a League Cup defeat against Thatcham, as an FA Cup hangover hit league form.
For my part I was weary after two years of bearing witness to all the turbulence on and off the pitch and indicated I would stand down from my duties at the end of the season. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to become a director, an honour I proudly accepted.
Meanwhile  two defeats in five days to bottom club Corby saw the Magpies plummet to 17th in the table. Drax had brought with him some of Yeading’s finest talent in the form of Errol Telemaque, Bobby Behzadi, Darti Brown and David Clarke but as yet they hadn’t been blended successfully into the current squad.
It all began to click on a chilly night at Adams Park at the end of February with a 1-0 County Cup win against Wycombe. This started a run of nine consecutive wins. The number of clubs serious about promotion was minimal but included some non league big guns in the shape of Bath City and King’s Lynn as well as the professionally funded Bath University team.
Helped by the arrival of classy centre back Grant Cooper, the team really sensed an opportunity for a late run to the playoffs, and despite back to back defeats to the Bath clubs, the momentum returned with two more wins.
Both the final two matches would be played against Banbury United, the first on a Thursday night was won to set up the final day visit to the Spencer Stadium knowing that another win would secure a playoff berth. Three points were duly delivered for a final finish of fourth and a play off semi final trip to Norfolk.
In front of a partisan four figure crowd at the impressive Walks stadium, Maidenhead played out of their skin to firstly deny a rampant King’s Lynn, and then defend a second half lead provided by an exquisite finish from the edge of the penalty area by Mark Nisbet (pictured left celebrating at the final whistle).
It was scarcely believable but within the course of less than a week, Maidenhead had moved into the play offs and were now one match from promotion. A surreal evening ended as I conducted an interview with BBC Radio Berkshire around midnight on the lonely last train back to London.
Team Bath were waiting in the final at Twerton Park, with the Magpies benefiting from the black and white striped landlords having little time for their tenants, and turning out to support the away team.
I had been invited to act as summariser for the BBC Radio Berkshire commentary. Never have I concentrated so much watching a Maidenhead match, doubly tense at the size of the prize on offer as well as not wanting to make a mistake. There was nothing to split the teams apart from a Telemaque goal (pictured right) within seconds of the start of the second half. It was the fifteenth win in seventeen outings, a truly fantastic run of form to return the Magpies to the Conference South at the first attempt.
There was still a County Cup Final to contest two days later, but a 2-1 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons mattered little as the promotion prize continued to burn bright.Thus concluded a breathtaking season with the FA Cup run and league success at last taking the focus away from the revolving managers door. A season summed up when, as the final whistle blew to signal promotion at Twerton Park, Chico Ramos collapsed with exhaustion, John Urry rushing on to the pitch to cloak him with a towel James Brown style. Looking on I couldn’t help but whistle I Feel Good.
With thanks to Mark Smith’s book One For Sorrow Two For Joy for the statistical content of this series.
Peter Griffin, Una Loughrey & Drax pictured after promotion at Bath

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